Calgary

Speed limit signs in Lethbridge, Alta. can quickly change to prevent collisions

The city installed several electronic signs and message boards that can be changed, wirelessly, in a matter of seconds, on a busy stretch of road last year.

City says zero pile-ups on Whoop-Up Drive since digital signs installed a year ago

In 2014, Lethbridge became the first municipality in Canada to implement variable speed limit signs. (Utah Department of Transportation)

While variable speed limit signs are expected to go live on three major B.C. highways in 2016, one southern Alberta city has been benefiting from them for more than a year.

Lethbridge was the first municipality in Canada to implement the signs, which work on wireless cell phone technology. This means speed limits can be changed, in a matter of seconds, when road conditions change.

In 2014, Lethbridge installed several digital signs and message boards on Whoop-Up Drive — the only stretch of road in the city with a 90 km/hr speed limit. 

One of the electronic message boards on Whoop-Up Drive in Lethbridge, Alta. (City of Lethbridge)

"It's designed like a freeway between east and west Lethbridge," said Ahmed Ali, manager of transportation engineering for the City of Lethbridge. 

"When extreme weather happens — snow and very low temperatures — [it] becomes like an ice sheet. And we had a number of collisions," said Ali.

Nearly half of the 521 accidents that occurred on Whoop-Up Drive between 2008 and 2012 happened during winter driving conditions.

Since Lethbridge flipped the switch on the electronic speed signs, Ali says there have been no multi-vehicle pile-ups on the road and no collisions reported during weather events when speed was reduced.

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